Despite Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s repeated push for offshore oil and gas exploration, Petrobangla has hardly made any significant progress in this regard.
“To meet the domestic demand, Bangladesh is importing costly LNG from the international market. If the country finds huge reserves in the Bay of Bengal, it can save a huge amount of money. Besides, the gas crisis will be overcome,” experts said.
In March 2012, and July 2014, in historic victories at the UN Maritime Tribunal, Bangladesh got 11,631 square kilo metres and 19,467 square kilometres from Myanmar and India respectively. Offshore gas exploration can be a potential source of energy for Bangladesh. But since then, no exploration has literally been carried out to extract offshore gas resources.
With readjustment, the energy division has been divided into 26 blocks in the entire sea territory. However, work has begun in only 4 blocks.
After settling the dispute with Bangladesh, India and Myanmar have started extracting huge quantities of gas in their parts of the Bay of Bengal.
Badrul Imam, professor of geology at Dhaka University said Bangladesh could still not start the survey in the sea due to lack of proper planning, and vested interests. An artificial crisis has been created. Due to lack of new gas, the country is now importing LNG, which will cause additional pressure on the people.
He said Bangladesh will have to come out of the control of slow working, and unauthorised interference in the management of its exploration work.
“Myanmar has made its oil and gas exploration programme in the sea, but why Bangladesh could not do the same, he asked. It’s time to analyse,” he added.
Bangabandhu had said that the gas in the country’s land is going to be done today or tomorrow. There will be no problem. But before that the oil and gas of the sea will be lifted. He had also taken a few initiatives. But after the assassination of Bangabandhu in 1975, the offshore oil-gas exploration work. Current government has taken some initiatives, but due to bureaucratic complications, results are not satisfactory.
The government has taken the initiative of conducting multi-client survey across the entire sea due to the failure of the multinational companies to find oil and gas in the Bangladesh part of the Bay of Bengal. Petrobangla has called international tender for this.
International tenders were called twice for multi-client surveys in 2015 and 2016. The Norwegian company TGS and France’s Schlumberger Consortium were the lowest bidders, but they did not get the job.
A committee formed in this regard also suggested giving the work to Schlumberger. Even after the matter hanging for long in various bureaucratic tangles, it was said, there is no need for survey.
An official of the energy division, on anonymity said there is a powerful syndicate in the energy division. It stops most of the important work for commission.
Energy division sources said, the main goal of multi-client surveys was to survey a large area of the Bay of Bengal with a company before the tender.
Later, the company that got the exploration work through tender, would have to buy the results of the survey. As a result, the cost of the survey would come from the company. There will be no financial loss to the government. Rather, it will work with the successor.
A former senior official of Petrobangla said multi-client survey is very essential as it can give an idea on the prospects of oil-gas in the Bay of Bengal. Seeing this, foreign companies show interest in offshore exploration. There are also various benefits to work.
“If such a survey is done, we will also realize actually what kind of resources we have in the sea,” he added.
He also said, ‘Although this survey does not provide any idea about the reserves of oil and gas, there is an idea about whether there is anything, and in which area.’
In addition, after settling dispute with Bangladesh in 2012, Myanmar is exploring and drilling gas blocks. In 2016, Myanmar announced a gas production of 4 trillion cubic feet in Block Thalin-1. The gas lifting started from here.
Currently, more than 10 foreign companies are working for exploration in the number of 20 blocks in the sea of the Myanmar area. The companies include France’s Total, Britain’s Shell Oil, British Gas, USA Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Italy’s INI and Norwegian State Oil.
On the other hand, India is expected to have reserves of about 50 trillion cubic feet of gas in the Krishna-Godavari Basin area of the Bay of Bengal. Indian state-owned ONGC, Gujarat Estate Petroleum Corporation and Private Group Reliance are conducting strong explorations in the area.
Sources said there are indications of vast reserves of oil and gas in Block D-12 in the deep sea, and Bangladesh could have a minimum of 5 prospective structures in the Bay of Bengal following the 2-D seismic survey of 1,580 sq km in the area.
The disclosure came from block operator South Korean conglomerate Daewoo Corporation to Petrobangla.
Indian company oil and natural gas corporation (ONGC) is now carrying out seismic surveys in shallow sea blocks 4 and 9, while a joint venture of KrisEnergy and Santos is carrying out seismic surveys in shallow sea block 11.
Petrobangla has recently calculated the demand for gas in 40 years, and its receipt. It has been said all the gas will run out in 2041. The amount of gas extraction from fields will start to decrease from the year of 2025.
Petrobangla said, it can be increased for lifting of gas until 2020. Then it will be stable in 2024-25. After then, it will decrease.
According to Petrobangla, the demand will arise 4,770 million cubic feet in 2024-25, whereas the production capacity will be 2,196 miilion cubic feet from the current gas fields in the country. In next fiscal year the demand and production capacity will be 4,910 and 1,702 million cubic feet. In the same way demand and production ratio will be 5,200 and 1,054 million cubic feet in 2028-29. Gradually it will decrease, and if the new gas fields are not discovered during this period, gas production will be zero in 2041.
Energy specialist Professor Shamsul Alam said “There is huge opportunity for oil and gas fields. Myanmar has implemented oil-gas exploration operation in its sea area, whereas Bangladesh is far behind. The government needs to be more concentrated on gas exploration within the country instead of importing gas at a high price.”